Ocean cleanup is one of the most accessible forms of environmentalism. Waste in our oceans is visible and easily traceable to human impact. Have you seen images of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch?
Cleverly nicknamed “Garbage Island” or “The Pacific Trash Vortex,” these images have circulated in the news and on social media. They will likely loom in the back of our minds each time we use a plastic lid for to-go cups.
While individuals are often motivated to skip the straw by campaigns to save the sea turtles, responsibility has fallen on organizations to offer long term, tangible solutions to ocean cleanup.
Scaling far beyond reduced consumption, members of the impact startup space work to offer new technologies that not only provide alternative materials but develop technology and programs to eliminate the waste occupying our oceans.
In this article, we explore five startups that share the mission of ocean cleanup.
At the forefront of alternative straw technologies, founder Emma Rose Cohen started Final Straw in 2018 inspired by reducing single use plastics. Instead of “skipping the straw” altogether, Final Straw proposes a convenient, portable solution to plastic straws.
The product is simple: a fashionable, collapsible straw used as a keychain for easy access. As a college student, Cohen utilized Kickstarter to raise funds for her project and now targets younger individuals to spread her mission. Unlike most paper straw alternatives, Final Straw offers a product that can be used with hot beverages, is dishwasher safe, and ultimately promotes a sustainable image with each use. No more straws in the ocean!
While plastic straws get all of the spotlights, Abeego has created alternatives to other waste: plastic bags and plastic wraps. The reusable wrap utilizes technology made from beeswax to mimic the properties of a peel or rind to keep food fresh.
The product takes shape over most containers and sticks with self-adhesive. While the wrap is multi-use, once the product has been well worn, it is biodegradable and compostable.
Getting a start in 2008, the company has grown its presence internationally and has inspired other food preservation technologies. No more plastic wrap in the ocean!
With the primary goal of reducing waste, Abeego is wholistically committed to minimizing energy use and saving honey bees. An added bonus? Abeego tackles the food waste dilemma by promoting wrapped and saved foods.
Founded in 2008, the California startup Origin Materials is guided by a simple mission: “We’re taking carbon-negative materials mainstream.” The company employs chemical technology to create PET–polyethylene terephthalate.
Ridding the world of the traditional plastic bottle, the company offers sustainable, 100% recyclable water bottles. Through harvesting atmospheric carbon instead of using petroleum, Origin Materials converts chemical products of wood into recyclable materials. As a result, the company reduces the number of plastic water bottles washing up on shores. The technology is flooding the market: Origin Materials has partnered with companies such as Pepsi Co., Nestle Waters, and Danone.
Related Articles: 5 B Corps Saving Our Oceans | Working Towards a Cleaner Ocean: An Interview with Fabienne McLellan from OceanCare | 4Ocean: Pulling trash, a pound at a time | How the Climate Crisis Threatens Loggerhead Sea Turtles |The Ocean Cleanup: Cleansing Our Oceans From Our Plastic Sins
Clear Blue Sea
Approaching ocean cleanup in a different fashion, Clear Blue Sea is a nonprofit tech startup based in San Diego. Tackling everything from education and activism to cleaning the ocean themselves, the dedicated members of Clear Blue Sea work with the San Diego community to complete a wide array of projects.
The most notable project released by Clear Blue Sea is FRED–the Floating Robot for Eliminating Debris. This solar-powered machine floats on the ocean’s surface and collects passing garbage, to learn more about this garbage clean up, see this Junk Removal Facts. After collection, FRED returns to its home base where the plastics are removed from its gathering bin and given to one of Clear Blue Sea’s sustainable recycling partners. Most admirably, Clear Blue Sea claims it has received minimal funding and accredits its successes to student interns and volunteers. Great to see all the people helping with the ocean cleanup!
LOLIWARE commits to the goal of reducing plastics in a simple and unconventional manner: edible cups and straws. With humble beginnings on the reality show SharkTank, the founders of Loliware pitched “Replacing Plastic. One Biodegr(edible) Cup at a Time.”
The founders Chealsie Briganti and Ann Tucker began with the idea to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic cups that fill our landfills. As the concept and business developed, LOLIWARE expanded its mission to reducing ocean pollution, particularly in regard to the single-use straw.
The LOLIWARE STRAW is composed of seaweed that is not only non-GMO, ocean safe, and hyper compostable; it’s edible! Although the initial concept faced heat for being difficult to chew, this startup has created a bridge between simplicity, fun, and sustainability.